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229 posts from February 2008

February 26, 2008

McCain's Florida debut as nominee-in-waiting

In Republican John McCain's first trip to Florida as his party's presumptive nominee, he will attend $1,000-per-person fundraisers on Tuesday evening in Gulfstream and on Wednesday afternoon in Naples.

If next week's votes in Texas and Ohio don't go Democrat Hillary Clinton's way, the Florida trip may provide a closely watched venue for McCain to go after Barack Obama. No word yet on whether McCain will make any public appearances.

And in a sign that the GOP is coalescing around McCain, former Broward Republican Party Chairman Ed Pozzuoli -- a major Rudy Giuliani supporter -- is one of the co-chairs for the event at the Gulfstream home of Harry Sargeant.

Obama denounces Farrakhan's anti-Semitism

MSNBC debate moderator Tim Russert put Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on the spot by asking him whether he accepted the support of the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan.

The same question was asked yesterday in a written statement from Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, in a nod to the state's large Jewish population.

Rival Hillary Clinton pushed back a bit at Obama's response tonight. Here are excerpts:

Obama: "I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him..."

Russert: "Do you reject his support?"

Obama: "I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy...."

Russert: "The problem some voters may have is that as you know, Rev. Farrakhan called Judaism a gutter religion."

Obama: "I am very familiar with his record, as are the American people, which is why I have consistently denounced it...I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign, and the reason is that I have been a stalwart friend of Israel...Not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community. I would not be sitting here would it not for a whole host of Jewish-Americans who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. That coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is to make sure those lines of communication and understanding are reopened..."

Clinton: "You asked specifically if he would reject it and there's a different between denouncing and rejecting...I just think we have got be even stronger..."

Obama: "I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it, but if the word 'reject' Sen. Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' than I'm happy to concede the point and I'm happy to reject and denounce."

Greer to Sasso: We are coming after you in 8 months

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer on the win by Democrat Tony Sasso in the special election to fill the seat once held by Rep. Bob Allen: "We look forward to the opportunity to win this seat back when Tony Sasso's eight months are up."

Greer, echoing the comments of House Speaker Marco Rubio, said that Sasso "campaigned as a fiscally conservative, pro-gun Democrat in an effort to connect with the mainstream majority" in House District 32. "Tonight the question for Tony Sasso is this: During the next eight months as a state representative, will you keep your campaign promises to the people of HD 32? Or will you revert back to your old ways of voting on nearly every tax increase that crosses your desk.?"

Obama says sorry on Schiavo

For the second time in a nationally televised debate, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama pointed to congressional intervention in the court battle over Terri Schiavo's life in a Florida hospice as one of his biggest regrets.

The Illinois senator said in tonight's MSNBC broadcast that he wished he had spoken out when Republican legislators tried to stop the severely brain-damaged woman's husband from removing her feeding tube in 2005. Polls showed voters opposed government intervention.

"It wasn't something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped, and I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that, and as a constitutional law professor I knew better,'' Obama said. "I think that's an example of inaction, and sometimes, that can be as costly as action."

Rubio: Sasso won by embracing conservative ideas

House Speaker Marco Rubio said that the victory of Democrat Tony Sasso in House District 32 over Republican Sean Campbell on Tuesday night is not some sign of impending doom for the GOP.

In a rejoinder to Rep. Dan Gelber, whose latest blog entry uses the Sasso victory to mock House Republican leaders as out of touch with the mainstream, Rubio points to the fact that Sasso himself received a top rating from the National Rifle Association and that his own website says that Sasso is in favor of "real property tax reform" and that he supports "conservative budgeting and a fair tax structure that protects homeowners from inequitable tax increases and encourages businesses to expand and create jobs."

"You may think this is a statement from me, right?" said Rubio in an e-mail. "No, it is actually right off the Tony Sasso website. It proves that the path to victory for Democrats is to embrace the fiscal conservative principles the House leadership has been espousing. We congratulate Rep. Sasso on his election and welcome him to the ranks of fiscal conservatives with open arms."

Rubio also added: "Lower taxes and the Right to Bear Arms? He sounds like my kind of Democrat."

Gelber: House leaders have presided over a complete collapse

House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber wasted little time on Tuesday gloating about the apparent victory of Democrat Tony Sasso over Republican Sean Campbell and used it to urge moderate Republicans to stop following House Republican leaders "over the cliff."

In a piece that is already up on his blog, Gelber states that House GOP leaders "have presided over a total collapse of their party's dominance,'' citing the fact that Democrats have picked up nine seats in the last two years (although the net is only eight since Will Kendrick switched parties after the 2006 elections.)

Gelber credits the victory in the seat held formerly by Rep. Bob Allen to Sasso and the Democratic political team but he also states "We couldn’t have done it without my Republican House colleagues who have proven they are simply out of step with Florida’s mainstream. During this election cycle, they circumnavigated the state with Newt Gingrich in tow offering power points celebrating right wing Republican orthodoxy, instead of sensible candidates who speak to the aspirations of their constituents and the real challenges of our state."  More here.

House Democrats pick up GOP seat

With just five precincts left to be counted, it appears that House Democrats have a good shot at winning a special legislative election going on in Brevard and Orange counties.

If this holds, this will be the ninth GOP seat that Democrats have picked up since Marco Rubio became speaker designate. Democrat Tony Sasso right now holds a slim 409 vote lead over Republican Sean Campbell to win the House seat that had been held by former Rep. Bob Allen, the Merritt Island Republican who resigned in disgrace after he was convicted of trying to solicit a male policeman for oral sex in a park bathroom.

The seat held by Allen was heavily Republican and voted overwhelmingly for President Bush in the 2004 election although Bill Nelson defeated Katherine Harris in the district in the 2006 Senate race. But maybe the GOP knew things weren't going to go their way last week: Gov. Charlie Crist had planned to campaign for Campbell but at the last minute the event was canceled.

UPDATE: With just one precinct left, Sasso has maintained his lead. UPDATE TWO: It's over--Sasso won.

Broward legislators to County Commission: budget help not likely

A joint meeting between the Broward County Commission and the county's legislative delegation Tuesday afternoon returned to a familiar theme: the state government-local government tug-of-war about spending and taxes.

Broward County likely will need to make more than $100 million in cuts to its $1.3 billion general fund as part of next year's budget, in light of rising county costs, a real estate slump and a statewide property tax overhaul approved by state lawmakers and state voters. And commissioners criticized state lawmakers for passing down costs to county government (the so-called  "unfunded mandates" to use the budget buzzword) and begged the Broward legislative delegation to fight future cost shifts.

But the county's mostly Democratic legislative delegation pointed out that they had waged debates in the GOP-controlled legislature over the last year to prevent the state's property tax reform plan from causing major cuts in local government services...with limited success.

And they added that while they feel the county's pain, they might not be able to do much about it. The Legislature is looking at major cuts this year too. The state will have to find a way to cut more than $2 billion during the lawmaking session that starts Tuesday.

"The state is facing its tightest year ever," said state Sen. Steve Geller, a Cooper City Democrat and the Senate Minority Leader. "You're not going to get any relief. More likely the state is going to cut programs in a way that will force the county to pick up the slack...You aren't going to get additional help from us. More likely you'll get additional pain."

Major blackout hits the state

The lights may be on in Tallahassee, but a lot of the state is in the dark right now, including most of South Florida. Craig Fugate, the state's emergency management director, said the problem is so "widespread" that it is not weather related and he has ordered a partial activation of the state's Emergency Operations Center.

Florida Public Service Commission officials say that it appears a "transmission line" failure in South Florida led to "rolling blackouts" across Florida and that as many as 2 million to 3 million customers of Florida Power & Light may be in the dark as well as 150,000 customers of Progress Energy. More here.

Jennings a fair target, but Kuehne?

The Republican Party of Florida is no stranger to hard-hitting press releases. And its latest is no exception - assailing Democrat Christine Jennings as a "sore loser" hours after the House voted unanimously to dismiss her contest of the 2006 congressional race.

It's fair game to gloat that state and federal investigators found no evidence to back up Jennings' claim that faulty voting machines caused her narrow loss to Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan.

But then there's this: After suggesting that he's grateful "and the people of CD 13 must certainly be thankful" that the contest is over, GOP chairman Jim Greer says Jennings, in her quest to find out what happened, "was either proven wrong or met with embarrassment at every turn—most recently, with her attorney Ben Kuehne’s indictment last week on federal criminal charges in an international drug-trafficking case."

Is it fair commentary or a cheap shot to bring up an attorney's alleged transgressions -- which have nothing to do with Jennings' quest to see what happened to 18,000 ballots that showed no vote in the congressional race?

Kuehne, a respected Miami attorney and election law expert (who has represented Republicans, a fact not mentioned in the party's release) was charged in Miami federal court with laundering drug proceeds for vouching in 2002 for $5.2 million in tainted legal fees paid by trafficker Fabio Ochoa Vasquez to his high-profile attorney, Roy Black.

Kuehne was one of several lawyers who worked on Jennings' case.

Jennings' camp called the attempt at linking the cases attack "incredibly farfetched."